Authentic Hungarian Goulash

This Authentic Hungarian Goulash recipe is packed full of slow-cooked flavor, melt-in-your-mouth tender chunks of beef in a rich, thick broth.

Unlike a traditional beef stew, there are very few vegetables in this recipe. So I usually serve it with a simple Spinach Salad or my copycat Olive Garden Salad. 

A pot of Authentic Hungarian Goulash - chunks of beef in a tomato beef broth.

My grandfather lived in Hungary until his early 20s when he moved to Germany after World War II. He met my grandmother, started a family, and eventually moved his family to the US in 1955. He kept a little bit of his home country close, through bits and pieces of treasured history, like a family tree poster and a few classic Hungarian dishes that my grandmother would cook for him. She was also pretty famous for sharing the German recipes from her own heritage, like Authentic German Spaetzle, German Potato Salad (Swabia Style) and Cucumber Salad.

Tragically we no longer have some of those recipes to pull from, so this Hungarian Goulash recipe is the closest thing we’ve been able to recreate. And it is absolutely delicious and comforting, and reminiscent of long talks around the family table.

Authentic Hungarian Goulash in a large pot with a wooden ladle.

What is the Difference Between Hungarian Goulash and American Goulash?

Authentic Hungarian Goulash is a tender beef stew, simmered with red peppers, onion, tomato paste, and beef broth and seasoned with Hungarian paprika. Grandma always added a bay leaf for the extra punch of flavor. Everyone seems to have their own way of making this dish and my grandma was no different! It feels very rustic, and pairs well with a crusty loaf of bread.

American Goulash is more of a simple dish, made with ground beef, tomatoes and macaroni. Sort of like a Chili Mac without the cheese.

How to Make Authentic Hungarian Goulash

If you search the internet for a traditional Goulash recipe, you’re likely to come up with thousands of different recipes, including simplified recipes made with ground beef, like my Goulash Soup.

To make this classic recipe, however, you’ve got to follow all the steps – no shortcuts here, and they’re mostly about time. There are two methods I use: Stove top and slow cooker.

For both stove top and slow cooker methods, you’ll first soften some chopped onion and red bell pepper,and toast garlic and a bay leaf. Then add the beef, paprika, salt and pepper and cook for several minutes to brown the exterior of the meat.

Stove Top Goulash

  1. Stir in beef broth and tomato paste.
  2. Boil, then reduce the heat and let the stew simmer until the meat is tender.
  3. The longer you can let it simmer here the better, but at least an hour and a half to two hours.

Slow Cooker Goulash

  1. Add the beef to your slow cooker and stir in the beef broth and tomato paste.
  2. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 hours.

Hungarian goulash served on a plate over egg noodles.

Top Tips and FAQs for Authentic Hungarian Goulash

Use Hungarian Paprika

Not all paprikas are created equal. For this recipe, you’ll want to use only the sweet Hungarian paprika (this is the specific brand that we always use). That’s not to say that you absolutely cannot use a regular or smoky paprika, but it will alter the taste somewhat, as it is the base of the flavor.

Don’t cut the cooking time

This stew requires a cooking time of around 2 hours on the stove-top. A lot of that time is just baby-sitting the pot, but you’ll want to make sure you have the time. Alternatively, you could make this recipe in the slow cooker. Just brown the meat and vegetables first for several minutes on the stove and add the other ingredients into your slow cooker on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.

The longer you can let the meat cook, the better. Low and slow is best; it allows the fibers to be broken down, making the stew extra tender and easy to chew. 

What Cut of Beef is Best for Hungarian Goulash?

The great thing about a stew like this is that it simmers and cooks for a long time, making it perfect for cheaper cuts of meat that would otherwise be tough. A thick flank steak or chuck roast work great. 

Packaged stew meat can also work and is usually pretty budget friendly. Keep in mind though that packaged stew meat contains discards from when the butcher is cutting up large roasts and may contain more than one type of meat (chuck, top round, etc) which can result in some pieces becoming more tender than others. 

How do you thicken goulash?

If your gravy is too thin for your liking and you’d like to thicken it, you can do that by adding a cornstarch slurry. In a small bowl, whisk together a tablespoon of cornstarch and a tablespoon of water, then pour that into the bubbling stew. Give it a good stir and let it simmer for at least 5-10 minutes.

Make it creamy

Add a dollop of sour cream to each bowl as you serve them, or a ¼ cup of heavy cream during the last several minutes of cooking time. The paprika flavor can be quite intense, and the cream can help tone that down a bit.

My grandma added sour cream to almost everything, even her homemade chicken soup!

Authentic Hungarian Goulash with egg noodles and sour cream in a shallow white bowl with a black spoon.

How to serve Hungarian Goulash

Serve your traditional Goulash in shallow bowls. It pairs best with classic egg noodles, spaetzle or mashed potatoes. Since it is bright red in color, a pinch of fresh minced parsley adds some nice contrast and freshness to this dish.

Make sure to remove the bay leaf before serving. It adds great flavor but cannot be eaten.

Here are some more recipes with a European flair:

And a few more soups and stews to try:

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a square image of a white bowl with hungarian beef stew, egg noodles and sour cream

Classic Hungarian Goulash

This Classic Hungarian Goulash recipe is a delicious dinner that's packed full of slow-cooked flavor with tender chunks of beef in a rich, thick broth.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Hungarian
Servings 6 servings
Calories 395kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion chopped, about 1 ½ cups
  • 1 sweet red pepper seeded and diced
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 pounds beef stew meat cut into 1-2 inch chunks (chuck roast)
  • 3 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika or regular is fine but will change taste somewhat
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons tubed tomato paste or a 6-ounce can

Instructions
 

  • Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and red pepper and cook until soft; about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and bay leaf and continue to cook for 1 minute.
  • Add beef to the pot and stir in paprika, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until meat is browned; about 5 minutes.

Stove Top

  • Stir in broth, tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low; cover and simmer until meat is tender; about 2 hours. Remove the bay leaf.

Slow Cooker

  • Transfer meat mixture to the slow cooker. Stir in broth and tomato paste. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 hours. Remove the bay leaf.
  • Serve over cooked egg noodles and garnish with fresh chopped parsley. For a creamy goulash, add a dollop of sour cream.

Notes

Nutritional information is approximate and does not include optional serving sides like noodles or potatoes.

Nutrition

Calories: 395kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 52gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 141mgSodium: 634mgPotassium: 1035mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 2467IUVitamin C: 29mgCalcium: 65mgIron: 6mg
Keyword hungarian goulash

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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Comments

  1. I am going to make this Goulash and I know for a fact it is going to be fabulous. I make a recipe of Hungarian Veal Paprikash because I wanted to make something from my husband’s grandfather’s Hungarian culture. It was a hit with my family. Now I’m making this wonderful beef hungarian goulash which I believe he would enjoy as well. I am Ukrainian and my mother made a Goulash that was so different from any goulash made where I make my own sauce out of the water that all the vegetables and meat are cooked in at the end. I’ve learned that tinkering with a recipe to curtail it to your special ideal meal is authentic to your taste buds. Thank you for this recipe.

  2. So long this reciepe is the the closest to authentic. But in hungary this is not goulash. Goulash is a soup. I saw Jamie Olivers goulash and I wanted to cry. Try to replace olive oil. Authentic hungarian cuisine never use olive oil, but use lard of pork, or smoked hungarian bacon type of meat, that is greasy enough to put your ognion and garlic in to cook. But there is no need to add any Bell pepper or tomatopaste or any kind of broth. The only thing that makes this food red, is hungarian Red pepper. But this dish is great anyway 🙂 I hope you gonna try it in the real authentic way 🙂 ( I am a native hungarian who loves to cook)

    1. Thanks for your feedback Barbara! My grandfather was a native Hungarian and after they moved to the US my German grandmother would make this recipe for him.

  3. My original Hungarian Recipe called for the use of lard instead of olive oil. There are some Hungarian dishes that don’t taste right unless you use lard. I lived in Spain for two years and some restaurants destroyed the taste of food by using too much olive oil. When I returned I found that using other oils were better for some recipies but some needed that olive oil flavor so I used it sparingly.

  4. Thank you so much for this recipe. I lost mine in 1971 and haven’t had it since then. I’ll be making it very soon.

  5. Thank you or the recipe. My husbands grandmother made this for him as a child. So I wanted to try to make this for him.

  6. I’ve been looking for this recipe for years. Made it back in the 60’s but lost the recipe on moving. I remember using a lot of paprika but don’t remember the word “sweet”. I always used what came in a jar. I hope I can find you again. This was by accident during hunt for Knorr mixes.

  7. It is important that the stew meat be browned first to
    seal in the juices, then continue with the recipe.

  8. Hi
    My father cooks a fantastic goulash (of Slovak descent with mother being Hungarian,). He says the long cooking time is to give the onions time to disintegrate- they actually make the sauce. So he would do pound of onions for pound of meat.

  9. I made this for lunch today – the long cooking time produced melt-in-your-mouth meat. It was so good! I also liked that it was an easy one-pot, no-fuss meal. Thanks!

  10. Is there a difference between the tubed tomato paste and the canned? There is 4 times the amount of canned (3 tbsp which is 1.5 ounces of the tubed vs 6 oz in the can). I made it with the 6 oz and the tomato seems overpowering.

    1. It looks like tubed is double concentrated, so 3 Tbsp tubed = 6 Tbsp canned? The can I have says it has about 10 Tbsp in it, so maybe a whole can is just too much. Try a little over half a can next time and see if that’s better.

  11. I have a question. What side dishes do you serve with this? My granddaughter wants this for her graduation party. My husband makes it and it is her favorite : – }

    1. We serve the goulash with egg noodles. I’d serve just a green salad on the side, with maybe an oil and vinegar dressing. The goulash is pretty hearty so a lighter side dish is a perfect balance. You could also have garlic bread or just french bread, even breadsticks on the side.

  12. Thanks for the recipe, turned out great. I am working in Hungary for 5 weeks and wanted to cook a traditional meal. I have since spoken to Hungarians who told me that the recipe doesn’t need such a long cooking time if you have the good quality beef of other countries. The reason they cook it for so long is because cows generally in Europe are for milk and milk-products (great cheeses!) and their beef sucks. The beef I got from the supermarket specifically for goulash was obviously poor quality. But if you cook the cr*p out of it for hours, with that incredible paprika (taking loads home with me!) it is heaven on earth!!

  13. I also have roots in places such as Hungary (all over the former Austro-Hungarian Empire) and I adore food such as this. Many thanks for the recipe as we have almost all the ingredients and when we go shopping next I intend to pick up the few ingredients we don’t have and make this ASAP. Just from reading it my mouth is watering. 🙂

  14. This is an excellent recipe. My husband and I both have some Eastern European roots and this satisfied a craving for “hometown” food. I must say however that finding Hungarian paprika may be easy in our hometown, but not down here in southern Florida. I finally found a “sweet and bright” Paprika at Whole Foods, and I think it’s their way of making it different from their smoked and regular paprika varieties. I had gotten a source for really good chuck roast but wanted to do something different with it. This really did the trick. Thank you for hanging on to old family recipes and traditions.

    1. Publix in Florida actually sells Hungarian Paprika, look where they have gumbo spices etc, usually just below McCormicks spice rack. It’s sold in a tin and it’s from a town called Szeged. It costs $4.99 and they also sell Hot Hungarian Paprika.

      1. Thank you! The Publix I frequent is quite small, so I’ll head over to the larger one a couple miles away. The one I bought at Whole Foods was quite good however.

    2. I have been craving Hungarian goulash and had to drive to Penzeys for Hungarian paprika today to make it. You can order it online.

  15. Sorry to point out this is not a very “authentic” recipe. The recipes I have from old Hungarian chefs (yes, really) never use any olive oil (which was not normally used in Magyar cooking), but do use bacon fat and bacon in the goulash. Also the correct herb for flavoring is marjoram, which can be substituted with oregano, but never bay leaf. Also the meat should be simmered with wine+broth (my recipes call for white wine but I use red). So, yours is a good facsimile which will be more familiar to American stew-eaters, with the olive oil and bay leaf replacing bacon fat and marjoram.

    1. There are as many variations to Old World recipes as there are regions and cooks, passed down through the generations. For instance, my family’s recipe ALWAYS uses bay leaves AND marjoram, and NEVER uses wine. Some regions use Caraway seeds! Mom had some meat/bone stock portioned on the freezer at all times, And switched to a combo of olive oil and butter instead of animal lard for health reasons. There was virtually no difference in taste. Bacon alters the taste and it becomes something different. Not BAD – just DIFFERENT. Every good cook wants to make a recipe their own.?

  16. Great recipe! I made this as per the recipe and finished using the slow cooker. It came out very rich and tasty. Thanks for sharing.